To see more artworks by Reuben Paterson, please visit his website here.
To see more artworks by Reuben Paterson, please visit his website here.
Reuben Paterson is a painter whose use of glitter and diamond dust in a modernist tradition of pattern and form has seen him acknowledged as one of a new set of contemporary Māori artists – a third generation, who are contributing to New Zealand’s expanding art history, but who are cutting their own path and do not necessarily follow on from or connect with the ‘Tovey generation’ of artists.
‘The Māori revival happened, and out of that came the diversity,’ Paterson says. ‘We are into almost post-post-modernism in the revival, because people are doing things with Māori sensibilities. People are doing things with freedom, out of sincere and honest places. I haven’t chosen to do Māori work because there is some urban revival – what comes to me, and is part of me, is just my world and the world of many other people. I don’t see myself as coming from a kaupapa Māori [Māori cultural principles] base, but my work has some of those qualities in it.’
Paterson’s art career began soon after he graduated from the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 1997. In that same year, Paterson was one of three artists selected, and one of the youngest ever, to receive the prestigious Moet & Chandon Art Fellowship. The Fellowship awarded him a six-week residency in France, providing him with the time and space to paint and an opportunity to see and experience art in galleries and museums in France, as well as Germany, Italy and Britain. ‘It was the first opportunity I had to experience European art outside of a book or conversation.’
Following Paterson’s return to New Zealand in 2000, his work The Wharenui that Dad Built (2000) was included in the Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Nouméa. The work referenced kōwhaiwhai patterns [customary painted designs] and featured what was to become Paterson’s trademark use of glitter dust and pattern. His approach caught the attention of the art world. His kōwhaiwhai works were celebrated for their freshness and lightness, for combining new materials with customary Māori forms and, through them, for mixing up our notions of past, present and future.
‘I can understand the galleries’ interest in those works, in that they represented a biculturalism and multiculturalism that people could connect with, through childhood memory and through Māori and New Zealand identity,’ says Paterson. ‘But to me they showed how contemporary Māori art could access and express an existing language through the use of new materials, and through that introduce a contemporary conversation.’
The aesthetic and the seductive visual allure of Paterson’s work have often been noted by critics. Paterson looks at his works and thinks how ‘light is a visual metaphor for spiritual ideas, how religious art used light as a metaphor for the aura or the purity of saints and of the gods. The one thing that glitter does is reflect light. So using glitter is a modern interpretation of religious paintings that have informed art’s evolution and history, and my response to all of that.’
‘My work has the quality of “looking twice” – the viewer can feel fulfilled by just the imagery alone, but there are other conceptual layers if people look deeper and … behind the imagery. I’m interested in creating pleasurable and perhaps populist aesthetic in my practice, but I don’t want that aspect of my work to be the only one focused on.’
Much of Paterson’s work deals with relationships and interconnections, both spiritual and emotional, between people and their environment, and conveys intangible ideas drawn from his personal beliefs.
‘Sometimes the hardest thing to talk about is your work, because it doesn’t come from isolated experiences. When I was in England I had quite a few experiences that opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the world. These spiritual experiences or understandings are not foreign to our Māori concepts, they are very much the same. They are just a belief in the existence of things that have been and will always be – the future and the past.’
Paterson’s second series of works in 2003-2004, again used glitter dust but moved away from kōwhaiwhai and distinctively Māori forms, instead using fabric pattern as their inspiration. These fabric works included poetry in their titling, and even referenced the type of patterns he was drawing from, to help suggest interpretations to viewers.
Again, there was a personal significance in the visual symbolism the artist employed in this series. The fabric works, he says, were made in honour of his mother’s whakapapa [genealogy] and in particular her mother, whom he never met. Each element – poetry, titling and pattern – represented an aspect of his grandmother constructed from what he knew of her. The poetry, written by a childhood friends, expresses the experiences his grandmother may have faced. The patterns drawn from 1960s fabrics, reflect the era that she lived in.
‘The fabrics were all about my grandmother. I wanted to introduce myself to her and for her to introduce herself to us, so I did those works for her.’
Paterson defines himself as a painter, but has extended his practice to installation. He is interested in ‘extending painting outside its frame’ and has been working with moving image and sound to create ‘three-dimensional imagery in a gallery setting.’ He believes an artist is a person who is a ‘true participant’ in life.
‘I believe in being true, or else there is no wairua [soul] in the work. It is lacking everything if there is no truth or sincerity. To be an artist … you have to get into every nook and cranny – maybe we’ll do strange things for the experience, just to see what it is like.’
Many artists have influenced Paterson’s work and he acknowledges people who supported the early development of his art career, including George Hubbard, who created exhibition opportunities for him while still at art school.
‘I have always had a love of New Zealand work. I have looked closely at Maria Olsen. John Reynolds, Julian Dashper, Fred Graham, Sandy Adsett, Michael Smither and Phillip Clairmont have also been influences. I have never tried to recreate Phillip Clairmont, I hold his work in such high regard. I am into colour like Phillip was.
‘International artist include quirky artists like Keith Harring, Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat – raw power; Julian Schnabel, Julian Opie, Howard Arkley from Australia, Bridget Riley, Valentine Hugo. I also looked at early surrealist women, Frances Hodgkins and Rita Angus, for the graphic quality. Frances Hodgkins makes me cry.’
Although Paterson has used Māori forms like kōwhaiwhai and touches on Māori spirituality in his work, he says he does not carry a specifically Māori ideology. As a painter, however, he does see himself as part of the contemporary Māori art movement, connecting with other Māori painters such as Emily Karaka, Sandy Adsett and Kura Te Waru Rewiri, principally because of his acknowledgement of Māori ancestry. But Paterson does not see himself as part of a revival of mātauranga Māori [Māori customary knowledge], and he questions the compartmentalising of art into ethnic-specific genres.
‘I don’t take on that responsibility with my work … I only represent myself in my truths or discoveries.’
– Extract from Reuben Paterson in conversation with Megan Tamati-Quennell, Taiāwhio II: Contemporary Māori artists (Wellington: Te Papa Press, 2007), pp. 179-194.
For more information about Reuben Paterson, please see the articles below:
Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa: Toi Art, Te Pap Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand
Costume Botanicals, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
The Golden Bearing, Puketerata Garden of National Significance, Taranaki, New Zealand Said the Hibiscus, Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
The Night Flowers, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney, Australia
The End, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand
Brougham House Foyer Mural, permanent exhibition, New Plymouth, New Zealand
The Aroma of Black (Part II), Page Blackie Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
Tougher than Diamonds, Calder and Lawson Gallery, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
The Aroma of Black, Milford Galleries, Queenstown, New Zealand
Seasoned Pass, Corban Estate Arts Centre, Auckland, New Zealand
The Aroma of Black (Part III), Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Seek to Find to Yield, Vibrant Laneways, Brisbane, Australia
At the Edge of a Mirror, Hastings City Art Gallery, Hastings, New Zealand
In the Company of Animals, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand
The Golden Bearing, in situ at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Govett Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth
Sonic Boom, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney, Australia
Earth, Wind and Fire, Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
Seek to Yield to Find, Vibrant Laneways, Brisbane, Australia
Te Putahitanga o Rehua, Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Pleasure Seekers, Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
Twice Upon a Time, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Bottled Lightning, Peloton Gallery, Sydney, Australia
House of Rainbow, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand
Bottled Lightning, Gus Fisher Gallery, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Be Tender, Aotea Centre, Auckland, New Zealand
Gazillion Swirl, Auckland City Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
FLOW, Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
Muscles and Ice Cream, WORLD Store, Auckland, New Zealand
Te Putahitanga o Rehua, Te Manawa Museum of Art, History and Science, Palmerston North, New Zealand; and Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand
Aere e Akamotu, BCA Gallery, Rarotonga
Te Putahitanga o Rehua, Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga, New Zealand
Whakapapa: Get down upon your knees, Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga, New Zealand
The Water Between Us, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand
Dear Beauty, Dear Beast, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
The Painter’s Lot, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand
Reverie, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
When the Sun Rises and the Shadows Flee, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand
Reuben Paterson, 64zero3 Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Square2, City Gallery Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
He Aha te Mea Nui? What is the Greatest Thing?, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand; and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia
Narcissus, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Whakatata mai: Do you see what I see?, Christchurch Biennial Art and Industry, Christchurch, New Zealand
The Customs of Tripping, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand
Reuben Paterson, Gow Langsford Gallery, Sydney, Australia
Collaboration with WORLD, New Zealand Fashion Week, Auckland, New Zealand
When Paradise is not Enough, Dunedin Public Art Gallery Window, Dunedin, New Zealand
Reuben Paterson, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand
Reuben Paterson, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Cameo Project, Te Tuhi, Auckland, New Zealand
Visiting Asia, Hastings City Art Gallery, Hastings, New Zealand
Black Heart (with Lonnie Hutchinson and Walter Foott), The Vivian Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Day/Night, Me Rongo: Walk in Rainbows (with Lonnie Hutchinson, permanent public exhibition at Ronwood Avenue car park, Auckland, New Zealand
Op + Pop, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand
Pacific Collection, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Imagine Asia: New Zealand Artists Respond to Contemporary Asia, Pataka Museum + Art, Porirua; Te Tuhi Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
E Tu Ake, Musee de la Civilisation, Quebec City, Canada
Architecture of the Heart, MTG Hawke’s Bay, Napier, New Zealand
Contemporary Pacific and Asian Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Flow Riders, Rotorua Museum, Rotorua, New Zealand
E Tu Ake, Museo Nacional las Culturas, Mexico City, Mexico
Koru Tuputupu: Redefining Kowhaiwhai, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
E Tu Ake, Musee du quai Branly, Paris, France; and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington New Zealand
Oceania, City Gallery Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
CURRENT, October Gallery, London, England
Collecting Contemporary, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand
Manstyle, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Close Encounters: The next 500 years, Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, Canada
Small Works, Milford Galleries, Dunedin, New Zealand
Under, Lopdell House, Auckland, New Zealand
The Beauty of Distance: Songs of survival in a precarious age, 17th Biennial of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Putiputi: The flower in contemporary New Zealand art, Hastings City Art Gallery, Hastings, New Zealand
Beloved, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand
Asia Pacific Triennial, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia
Blue Planet, Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Together Alone: Australia and New Zealand Fashion, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Move Me, Webb’s Auction House, Auckland, New Zealand
Reference Section, Whakatane District Museum and Gallery, Whakatane, New Zealand
Am I Scared, Boy (eh): Collection works from then and now, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Are You Right not to Like Modern Art?, Te Manawa Museum of Art, History and Science, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Spring Catalogue Exhibition, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Dispelling the Myth: A look at changing attitudes towards death, Te Manawa Museum of Art, History and Science, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Dateline: Contemporary Art from the Pacific, Govett-Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand; and Stadtgalerie, Kiel, Germany
Pacifica, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England
Dateline: Contemporary Art from the Pacific, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin, Germany
Hot, 64zero3 Gallery, Christchurch
Of Deities and Mortals, Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
News from Islands, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney, Australia
Te Hue Ipu – Artifact and Artwork, Pataka Museum + Art, Porirua; and Whangarei Art Museum, Whangarei, New Zealand
nEUclear Reactions, Centro de Arte Caja De Burgos, Burgos, Spain
Parallel Practices, Hawke’s Bay Exhibition Centre, Hastings, New Zealand
The Walters Show, Pataka Museum + Art, Porirua, New Zealand
nEUclear Reactions, Prague Biennial, Czech Republic
Tau Ana, Waikato Museum, Hamilton, New Zealand
YMCA, Sarjeant Art Gallery, Whanganui, New Zealand
9th Pacific Biennial, Republic of Palau
“Wish You Were Here”, Hazlehurst Gallery, Sydney, Australia
Flowerpower, Pataka Museum + Art, Porirua, New Zealand
Ike and Thanks for all the Ika, Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand
Tau Ana, Wanganui Art Museum, Whanganui, New Zealand
Ike, and thanks for the Ika, Rarotongan Cultural Centre, Rarotonga
Māori in Lithuania, Lithuanian Siulaikinio Meno Centre, Lithuania
Contemporary Perspective in Portraiture, Te Tuhi, Auckland, New Zealand
Taiaawhio: Te Timatanga, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand
Flaunt – Art, Fashion, and Culture, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Contemporary Acquisitions, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
The Koru and Kowhaiwhai: Contemporary Renaissance of Kowhaiwhai Painting, Pataka Museum + Art, Porirua, New Zealand
Techno Māori, Wellington City Gallery, Wellington; and Pataka Museum + Art, Porirua, New Zealand
Purangiaho, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Mana Tangata, Te Wa, Whanganui, New Zealand
The 8th Festival of Pacific Arts Biennale d’Art Contemporian, Tijibaou Arts and Cultural Centre, Noumea, New Caledonia
Peter Hills: The Art Fair Murders, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Quartet: Four to the Fore, 23a Auckland, New Zealand
Salute Pierre ET Gilles, George Fraser Gallery, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland New Zealand
University of Auckland Art Collection, Auckland, New Zealand
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand
Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand
The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand
James Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland, New Zealand
Development Prize at the James Wallace Art Awards
Finalist, Castelleon City Arts Council Arts Prize, Castelleon, Spain
Recipient of the Moet et Chandon Arts Fellowship, Avize, France
Asia New Zealand Foundation artist residency, Goyang Art Studio, South Korea
Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand
BCA Gallery, Rarotonga
International Studio Curatorial Programme, Manhattan, New York
The Art Café, Ikaria, Greece
Punatapu Lodge, Queenstown, New Zealand
17th Biennial of Sydney, The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age (Sydney: Biennial of Sydney in association with Thames and Hudson, 2010), pp. 212, 303.
Amery, Mark, ‘Beastly, Beautiful,’ Dominion Post, 3 Thursday 2011.
Artspace, Remember New Zealand: New Zealand at the 26th Sao Paulo Biennial (Auckland: Artspace, 2005), pp. 179-93.
Bergman, Ben, ‘Kaleidoscopic Culture: The glitter-amas of Reuben Paterson,’ Art Monthly Australia, no. 236, December 2010-February 2011, pp. 34-6.
Broker, David, ‘Kaleidoscope Culture,’ Contemporary Visual Art + Culture Broadsheet, vol. 38, no. 4, December 2009, pp. 274-6.
Brooker, David, ‘Chic Pacifique,’ Eyeline Australia Magazine, no. 44, Summer 2001.
Brown, Warwick, Seen this Century – 100 Contemporary New Zealand Artists (Auckland: Random House, 2009), pp. 312-5.
Chappell, Dan, ‘Diamond Dust and Ancestral Stories,’ Art News New Zealand, vol. 31, no. 3, Spring 2011, pp. 152-8.
Clifford, Andrew, ‘One Man’s Glittering Career,’ New Zealand Herald, 8 April 2005.
―, ‘Roaming around the Pacific,’ New Zealand Herald, 23 January 2009.
Clifford, Andrew, Rhoda Fowler, and Sharon Whippy, Reuben Paterson: Bottled Lightning (Auckland: The University Centre for New Zealand Art Research and Discovery, 2012).
Devenport, Rhana, ‘Don’t get Depressed get Rad,’ Art and Australia, vol. 46, no. 2, Summer 2008, pp. 256-65.
Dignan, James, Abstraction and Still Life: An Overview (Dunedin: Milford Gallery, 2004).
Dingwall, Richard, ‘Family Tribute Woven from Ancestral Strands,’ Otago Daily Times, 17 July 2004.
Fitzgerald, Michael, ‘Sweet Dreams: The Paradox of Pop,’ Art and Australia, vol. 47, no. 2, Summer 2009, pp. 290-1.
Fowler, Rhoda, Portraiture: The Art of Social Commentary, (Auckland: Te Tuhi, 2003).
Goddard, Angela (ed.), Pathways Through History: The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 2009), pp. 158-9.
Harris, Geoff, ‘Māori Artists Exhibit at Leading Edge of a New Era,’ The Northern Advocate, 7 January 2004.
Hurrell, John, The Big Book of Essays: New Zealand Contemporary Art from the Real Art Roadshow, Silver Collection (Auckland: Real Art Charitable Trust, 2009).
―, Real Art Roadshow: The Book (Auckland: Midas Printing, 2009), pp. 172-3.
Janke, Shelley, ‘New Directions,’ Australia Art Collector, no. 67, January-March 2014, pp. 129-33
Lonnie, Bridie, ‘Kick Your Shoes Off, Do Not Fear,’ The Listener, 28 August 2004.
Mason, Ngahiraka, ‘Open for Interpretation,’ Art New Zealand, Spring 2005, pp. 64-7, 105.
―, Purangiaho: Seeing Clearly (Auckland: Auckland Art Gallery, 2001).
Mane-Wheoki, Jonathan, Tau Ana (Whangarei: Whangarei Art Museum Te Wharetaonga o Whangarei, 2004).
McEnteer, John, ‘Fashioning Links,’ Tuu Mai Magazine, November 2003.
Parekowhai, Cushla, Real Art Roadshow: The Book (Auckland: Midas Printing, 2009), pp. 170-1.
Paton, Justin, ‘Shimmer and Swell,’ Bulletin Issue, no. 171, 2013, pp. 33-40.
Paton-Tapsel, Bridgette, ‘Fashion and Whakapapa,’ Mana Magazine, no. 16, June/July 1997.
Rae, Bernadette, ‘The March of the Fisher,’ New Zealand Herald, 16 April 2001.
Rodriquez-Fominaya, Alvaro, and Russell Storer, ‘Asia Pacific Triennial 6,’ ArtPulse, vol. 1, no. 2, December 2009-February 2010.
Seeto, Aaron, ‘Ground Cover: Fiona Foley and Reuben Paterson, Indigenous Strategies for Public Art,’ Public Art Review, no. 42, Spring/Summer 2010, pp. 32-5.
Shand, Peter, We Fought Fashion and Lost (Auckland: Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, 2004).
Smith, Huhana (ed.), E Tu Ake: Māori Standing Strong (Wellington: Te Papa Press, 2011), pp. 42-43, 146, 148.
Tamati-Quenell, Megan (ed.), Taiāwhio II: Conversations with Contemporary Māori Artists (Wellington: Te Papa Press, 2007)
Wood, Andrew Pau, ‘Portrait,’ Urbis, no. 61, April 2011, p. 118.1